Do Clark County Schools Have a Gun Problem?
It’s been a little over a year since the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, prompted students nationwide to start advocating for school safety and gun control.
Meanwhile, in the 2018-19 school year so far, Clark County School District Police have confiscated 20 handguns and 28 BB guns, including from one student who was 9 years old at the time.
Clark County School District Police Sargent Bryan Zink told KNPR's State of Nevada that of the 20 handguns confiscated, 13 were on school property, three were near schools and four were being carried by adults.
Zink said there are more reports of firearms on campus, in part, because more students are coming forward with information.
"More and more people are coming forward and saying, 'Hey, this is my school. I want to go to a safe place,' and they're letting adults know other students have these items," he said.
Besides students coming forward with tips, CCSD Police are conducting random searches both in the morning during arrivals and throughout the day. They're using handheld metal detectors and dogs that are trained to sniff out gun parts.
Zink said it would be naïve to think that they're getting all the guns that are on campusm but he said CCSD Police are doing the best they can.
Nyssa Silva is a junior at Green Valley High School and an organizer of March for Our Lives, the student-led protest against gun violence in schools.
She said students have become more aware of guns on campus.
"I wouldn't say we're scared, but rather, conscientious of what's happening around us," she said, "We're more aware of everything."
Here in Nevada, former Governor Brian Sandoval appointed a task force to study the issue.
Christy McGill is the director of Safe and Respectful Learning Environment at the Nevada Department of Education.
McGill said the task force looked at the issue from several different perspectives, including those of the students, law enforcement, and the community.
The task force recommended a systematic approach to improving safety that focuses on teamwork instead of individual solutions to the problem. For instance, when it comes to discipline, McGill said a cooperative effort, using more readily available data, would help find kids who need help before they get into trouble.
"If these things pop up, they can be dealt with immediately and the system is responsive to the needs of kids and students," she said.
The current Legislature is considering bills based on the task force recommendations. The most comprehensive of those bills is Senate Bill 89, which hopes to address mental health resources and discipline data issues, along with school safety officer and mental health professional shortfalls.
A key recommendation from the task force that is already in place is an app called SafeVoice, which allows students to text or call in anonymous tips. Information provided can be about someone who's threatening violence against others, or who's at risk of harming themselves.
Sgt. Zink said a recent tip came from a student that reported his friend had threatened to kill himself after school. Police responded immediately and found the student, who did have a loaded handgun with him.
Silva said she hasn't used the app herself, but she does like the idea of students being able to report concerns anonymously.
"I feel like it allows students to be able to anonymously report something that they've heard ... from their friends," she said, "In the past, a lot of students didn't want to rat out their friends."
You can read more about school safety and gun incidents in the March issue of Desert Companion, the monthly magazine of Nevada Public Radio.
Bryan Zink, Sergeant, CCSD Police; Nyssa Silva, March for Our Lives organizer; Christy McGill, director of Safe and Respectful Learning Environment, NV Dept. of Education